Every year, thousands of businesses face lawsuits for not taking the proper steps to ensure their establishment is accessible to people with disabilities. Below are some tips to create better access for all – so that as many people as possible can patronize your business — while also avoiding legal trouble.
Identify Alternate Entrances
Any place of public accommodation (restaurants, hotels, hospitals, retail stores, etc.) must make their building accessible to people with disabilities. This includes installing ramps for wheelchairs and widening doorways so that they can easily fit through. If the main entrance for a business is not wheelchair accessible, the business must offer an alternative entrance. Many business owners comply with this rule, but they don’t make it immediately clear to their customers. In order to let people know immediately how they can enter the building, businesses should post a clear sign providing directions to the alternate entrance and label it with the International Symbol of Accessibility.
Keep Aisles and Walkways Clear
When it comes to accessibility, it’s not enough to have a ramp available at one of your building’s entrances. You also need to make sure your aisles and walkways are clear at all times.
During busy times of the year, many stores end up cluttering their aisles with extra stock. This makes life incredibly difficult for people in wheelchairs, though. Make sure there is a clear, 32-inch wide path available throughout your store at all times. You should also keep your walkways and parking lots clear. This includes removing snow and spreading ice melt during the winter months, and trimming bushes and flower arrangements so they aren’t hazardous to people who have low vision or are blind.
Educate Your Employees
Employers should also take time to regularly educate their employees on the proper way to treat people with disabilities. Employees should know to treat all customers with the same level of respect and courtesy. But, they should also be prepared to handle interactions with customers who may require extra assistance. For example, they need to be prepared to read written documents to customers who are blind or exchange notes back and forth with a customer who is hard of hearing, deaf, or has difficulty speaking.
Customers with hearing, sight, or speech-related disabilities may also need extra time to communicate with your staff. Make sure your employees know to be patient and understanding with such individuals.
Offer Wheelchair-Accessible Seating and Counters
If you run a restaurant, bar, or other business that offers seating for customers, you should make sure you also offer seating specifically for wheelchair users. A wheelchair-accessible table should have a space underneath that is 30 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and 27 inches high. The top should also be 28-34 inches from the ground. If your store has a lowered counter for wheelchair users, make sure it’s always clear. Don’t display items on it or store stock there.
Make Sure Your Website is Accessible
Finally, make all aspects of your business accessible, including your website. Some tips for making your website accessible include:
Find a content management system that offers accessible themes and plugins for services like video captioning.
Organize your content with headers that can easily be interpreted by screen readers.
Use alt text for images, especially infographics, so that screen readers can describe them.
Evaluate color contrast so that your text and images are visible to as many people as possible (including those with red-green color deficiency).
Clearly label the fields in your forms
Make sure content can be accessed using just the keyboard for people who aren’t to use a mouse or trackpad.